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East Inlet Trail, RMNP, CO June 14, 2009

January 20, 2010

Posted January 19, 2010

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In rather stark contrast to the prior hike (only one week earlier in snow with Will; Lulu City), I had a much more summery (uh, summer like?) hike on one Sunday, in June.  I headed over to the Grand Lake area to check out a section of Rocky Mountain National Park that was new to me.  The East Inlet Trail.

Before I go any further in the trip’s description, here is my standard comment. Please check my photo galleries here for all the larger and higher quality photos for this trip. The photos in the gallery are a quantum leap in size and quality compared to the little teaser photos I put in this site’s trip narrative (and there are more of them).

In addition, I have two other links that will help locate the area if you are interested in making the hike yourself. A Google Earth map can be found here. Use the scale bar on the left side of the Google map to help zoom in or out to help locate the area based on where you live. (This link will direct you to a Google map that shows ALL my trips.) In order to help you with the actual trail itself, you can use this link to view a topo map (a low quality one, care of the great National Geographic TOPO program that one of my sons purchased for me : ) of the East Inlet trail. Please note that all links open a new browser window.

You get to the trail by cutting through the town of Grand Lake and parking at a well developed trail head.

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In addition to the Google map link above, below is a Microsoft Live map. The red tack shows the general location of the trail from Fort Collins, CO. You can click on the map to bring it up in a “live” mode and zoom in or out (move the map around) to get more detail.

Map image

Nice view of Grand Lake not far from the parking lot.  There is a boat put-in ramp where all those cars are parked in the distance.

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As can be seen, the day was quite nice.  I was a trifle put off by all the cars in the parking lot, but as it turned out, the vast majority only went to Adams Falls (3 tenths of a mile according to the sign) or a short distance past that.  I was heading to Lone Pine Lake.  An 11 mile round trip which left me by myself on most of the hike.

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The trail stays fairly high above the East Inlet stream for the first part.  But, you do get some nice views.

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At my relatively low altitude, the flowers were beginning to make an appearance.  They will probably be better in a week or two, but after last weekend’s hike, any flowers were nice to look at : )

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Eventually, less than a mile, you end up at the stream level.

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And then you see the first of the upper meadows.  Well, at this time of year, very wet marshy meadows.  But very pretty, just the same.

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Zoom a little.  I believe that is Mount Craig in the distance (the one with snow all over it).  Lone Pine lake is to the “left” of that mountain.  There is another valley to the right that contains Paradise Park.  But, I don’t think there is a maintained trail that goes very far in that direction.  Maybe some day I’ll check it out.

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The trail winds around this first section of marshy meadows and then heads back up through the trees for a while.

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There in a shaded spot I found these little delicate flowers.  Waiting just for me, I’m sure.

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Close up.

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You can see the stream through the trees as the trail meanders through the forest.  And then, you see the next section of meadows ahead.

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Really, quite a nice view.  Again, you head directly for Mount Craig in the distance and then to the left.

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Pretty nice view (slight understatement : ).  You come out from the woods onto a little promontory above the river.  After this point, the number of people I saw really dwindled.  I only saw a half a dozen or so after this point (well, until I got closer to the parking lot on my return leg).

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The trail led down to the river.  I had to spend some time here taking photos and just, ummm, looking.  Bonus; at least for this time of year, no insects yet.

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Went so far as to sit down in the grass.

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After a while, the trail led back into the woods.  Came along a nice bunch of rocky mountain red flowers : )

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A little closer.

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Close up.

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At this point in time, you could see meadows along the river off to one side, but the trail itself, in general, stays away from the river.

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Occasionally the trail passes by an opening.

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But, slowly, the woods close in and, uh oh, you begin to gain altitude.

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Still, even the woods had small openings where sun loving flowers were blooming.

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Close up.

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There were only 3 or 4 places along the trail where you crossed larger tributaries.  This was one such place.  Un-named and roughly two miles up the trail.  They had gone to the trouble of building a bridge to cross over.

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There is a small, but nice, set of falls just above the bridge.  This part of the year is high in water runoff, so the falls may be much smaller in nature later on.

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Upstream.

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Downstream.  The bushes have not fully leafed out yet.  There were probably banks of snow along the trail a week or two prior to this time.

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The trail continues gaining altitude.  But, in a relatively gentle manner.  So, no massive set of switchbacks.  One nice thing is the abundance of aspen along the trail.  This would be a great hike to see the colors in the Fall.

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Of course, the good part about gaining altitude is that you eventually get to be able to view the mountains around you.  The high country.

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And, the view behind you gets very nice, also.  This is zoomed in quite a bit looking at the Grand Lake area in the distance.  Hmmm.  Clouds.

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Cliffs above the trail.  Artistic photo.

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Here is one that shows the distance back to Grand Lake a little better.  After gaining just a little more altitude.  As can be seen, the pine beetles have give this area (most of the west slope actually) a kinda “brownish” tone.  Kinda a shame, but it will all recover.  It may take a few hundred years, but eventually it will be green again.  And then, thousands of more years, it will be covered with glaciers.  Again.  Cycles.

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Zoom.

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Nice little “stairway to heaven” setting : )

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Even had a little bench to rest on part way up.

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The trail continued to gain altitude.  But, in general, not at too great a rate.  Plenty of time to enjoy the scenery.

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As I got higher up towards the snowfields (What snowfields? you ask. Patience, grasshopper. : ), I began to see more little run offs of melt water.

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Reached a set of falls (no name that I know of) somewhere between 3 and 4 miles up the trail.  I ended up at the top of the falls looking down.  Quite the roar.

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The river is getting a little smaller.  But, it was very tranquil above the falls.

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Nice set of flowers with a little water fall below the log.  Hard to see in these small photos.

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So, instead, here is a big flower : )

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There’s a very large cornice of snow up on top of that ridge.  Again, easier to see at my photo gallery web site with the larger photos.

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Nice set of falls on a tributary stream the trail crosses.

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Here’s the actual stream crossing.  Pretty nice place for a break.

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I did a fair amount of altitude gain after this.  Nothing horrendous, but definitely going uphill with the occasional switchback.  I began to wonder if the trail was going to get to the lake before striking the snow line.

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Because, well, it started looking a little “snowy”.  I’d done a lot of wet, snowy hiking the prior week, and really didn’t want to do any more.

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But then, salvation.

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Lone Pine Lake.  Turned out to be a pretty nifty place.  Very peaceful and quiet.  The sky cleared up for a while.  Now, just so you know, I did consider hiking past and up to some more lakes.  You only have to climb a little more and then enter a long valley with three more lakes to visit.  But, at least where I was, the trail became buried in snow drifts after it reached the lake.  So, no more uphill for me.  As it turned out, I would have been hiking out in the dark if I’d gone up to the next lakes.

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Met this old strange character.  Looked familiar, but I didn’t allow him to get too close.  Kinda shifty looking.

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I spent some time sitting around in the sun, then, since the clouds were moving in again, started back down the trail.
As I said earlier, at this altitude I was seeing small streams everywhere due to all the snow melting.

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I’m not sure why, but I didn’t remember seeing these falls on the way up.  But, here they were.

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So, I’ve got some better photos from another hike that shows what a real difference “the light” can make for a photo.  Suffice to say, the light “makes” a photo.  And by that, I mean not only does the light make the photo even possible (kinda not much to see with no light), but the type of light defines whether a photo has much visual impact.

Which meant, since it was later in the day on the way back down, all the views I’d seen on the way up had changed.  Because the light had changed.  For the better.  Most photographers will tell you that, in general, the best light to take photos is during the beginning of a day or the end of a day.  Not the middle.  So, I was hitting the end of the day and the light was getting good.  The early morning, in some ways, is better.  But, for some reason, I have a hard time getting to the trailheads that early (so, say 6 am in the summer : )

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Very clean, vibrant, and shadowy.

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Pano of four photos.  I’m really going to have to work on my pano technique, because you can capture some great scenes using that method of stitching together photos.

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Lush……….

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……ness.

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Jewels in the distance.

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Green threads in the mountains.

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Note how the shadows add character to the photo (yeah, I know, not really a great photo : )?  You don’t get that at mid-day.

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See how the shadows fall across the flower?  Of course, that was an accident.  I didn’t even notice while I was taking the photo.

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Beauty and the beast.  Which is which?  You decide.  Sometimes, it’s hard to tell : )

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Looking good.  Shadows are definitely growing.

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Not the time of year to hike across the meadow.

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Looking the other direction (last time I was sitting in the grass looking up the trail).

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The “classic” shot.

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Mix it up a little.  Of course, it was all good.

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Last look back.

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Getting a first glimpse of Grand Lake and the end of the hike.

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I could, at least part of the year, be fairly happy living here.  This is right before reaching the parking lot.  I kinda just wanted to meander over in that direction.  It was the “perfect” moment.  Shirt sleeve weather, sage brush scented air, everybody off the trail except for me.  No way to capture all that.  But, I tried : )

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Zoom in a little.

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Max zoom.  It was, um, really nice.

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Off to the north west you can see the southern end of the NeverSummer range.  Looking good.  Kinda a lot of snow : )

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Ah.  My faithful steed awaits.  Basking in the last rays of the sun.

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So, this next photo was a trifle upsetting. Since I didn’t really know my camera very well, and it was late, rainy, and I was tired, and the shot is through the front windshield (ok, enough excuses), it didn’t turn out too good.  But, just below Hidden Valley (so, this was after I had gotten back over on the east side of Trailridge Road), I had a pretty nice sized (for around here) black bear cross in front of me.  He/she ran across the highway and then slowed down once reaching the tree line.  In this photo the bear is almost in the exact center of the photo, right behind a tree.  Yeah, pretty hard for me to see, and I know where to look : )

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In this photo the bear is past the tree and in full view (well, relatively speaking : )  Again, almost in the center of the photo.  Its actually fairly visible looking at the larger photos on my smugmug site.  Anyway, I need to get my reflexes in gear a little faster next time.  But, he did bomb across the road.

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Looking across the Beaver Brook meadows at the storm I drove through going over the divide.  It may have been a little darker than what this photo makes it out to be.  Hard to remember.  No wet snow on Trailridge this time, but I did go a little slow due to ice here and there.  Lots of snow along Trailridge at this time of the year.  That’s Flattop Mountain on the right hand side.  Will and I would reach out and touch that one later in the summer.

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Really a great day and hike.  I have a lot of country on that side of the park, including more of the area I was in today, yet to hike.  So I’m looking forward to spending more time there this coming summer.  Maybe lots more time.  I know a certain lake …………

– Geoff Weatherford

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